Melinda Marchiano

I started dancing when I was three years old. Every year, I fell more and more in love with it and I was 11 or 12 years old when I decided that I really wanted to work hard for it. Almost a year later, I fell sick and it took the doctors about 6 months just to find out what was really wrong with me. I had Hodgkin Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer and it had to be treated quickly. I had four rounds of chemotherapy and three weeks of daily radiation over the course of six months. I thought that it was over until I suffered from a life threatening eating disorder and my weight was down to 75 pounds.

I tried to dance even at that time, but I was so thin and weak and I couldn’t do it any longer. I could barely open my eyes or move and I got daily shots which made any sort of body moment excruciatingly painful. Every time I dance now, I think about how it felt like not being able to move and do what I loved the most. I always say that dance saved me. “Every time I danced, I had a high pitched cough I called “The Dolphin Cough.” It led us to find the mass in my chest. Dance also saved me emotionally by being my outlet during treatment – my goal and passion.”

Now, I’m pursuing a professional dance career and studying which earlier seemed impossible for me. I try and bring passion to my performances after everything that cancer has taught me. Every time I dance, I think about all those children who are in the situation where I was earlier. Maybe they want to play soccer or play baseball or even paint, but can’t sit up to do whatever they want. I want to be an example or maybe a source of hope for them because even though it may seem like it is the end, there’s always hope to be strong again and do all those things that they like.

“Dance means so much to me! In my classes every day I learn about working hard, achieving goals, patience, believing in myself, and about pushing beyond what I think I can do. Also, it is still very therapeutic. I know I can always rely on it at the end of the day, no matter how good or bad it was.”